Monday, May 31, 2010

How Dennis Hopper and "Easy Rider" Affected Me

Actor Dennis Hopper died in Hollywood on Saturday at the age of 74. Although he was been known for the wide variety of roles that he has played from the alcoholic assistant basketball coach in “Hoosiers” (a role that earned him one of his two Oscar nominations) to the super creepy psychotic in the bizarre “Blue Velvet” – I will always associate Dennis Hopper and the movie “Easy Rider” (that he helped to write) with one thing – my first anxiety attack.

It was a warm Saturday night in the city of Flint, Michigan and a couple of my friends had come over to visit me.  My friend Steve was just getting to “know” another friend of mine, Marianne, and instead of going out and doing something we decided that we would hang around my place and watch “Easy Rider” on Channel 7 WXYZ’s Saturday Evening Late Movie.  I had never seen the movie before and my friend Steve had nothing but positive comments about the flick and thought that both Marianne and I would enjoy seeing it – even despite the heavy handed editing of a local TV station.

All three of us gathered together on this green couch that we had in our living room on Marshall Street.  Steve and I book ended Marianne on the couch and somewhere over my shoulder sat my cat, High T. Kittycat.  (You can assume how my cat got her name and you would probably be close.  You have got to remember this was the early 70s and although the herb never played a big part in my life – it did when it came to this cat.).

Naturally, the first thing that grabs you about the movie “Easy Rider” was the music – I can’t remember movies using rock n’ roll music as effectively as they did in this movie, but all you had to do is take one look at Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper to understand the rock n’ roll connection. 

Get your motor running 
Head out on the highway 
Looking for adventure 
In whatever comes our way 

Yeah, darling 
Gonna make it happen 
Take the world in a love embrace 
Fire all of your guns at once and 
Explode into space 

I like smoke and lightning 
Heavy metal thunder 
Racing in the wind 
And the feeling that I'm under 

Yeah, darling 
Gonna make it happen 
Take the world in a love embrace 
Fire all of your guns at once and 
Explode into space 

Like a true nature child 
We were born 
Born to be wild 
We have climbed so high 
Never want to die 
Born to be wild 
Born to be wild

Wow!  This movie is gonna be good, I thought.

It was at that point that something happened…something that had never happened to me before…and not knowing what it was – I got scared.  For some reason – I felt my heart beating fast and I was having difficulty breathing – so, I left my friends on the couch and walked into the bathroom.  I can remember looking at myself in the mirror as I alternated between putting a cold wash cloth on my face and sitting on the toilet burping and trying to go to the bathroom.  I don’t know why I did those things – I just felt that they gave me some relief to what I was feeling…but it didn’t…because after about fifteen minutes in the bathroom – I had a big announcement to my friends.

“I’m sorry to have to do this,” I said, “But, I need for you to take me to the hospital, because I feel like I’m gonna die.”

I explained to my friends what I had been experiencing in the bathroom with the heart palpitations and the shortness of breath and they took me directly to the hospital that brought me into this world back in 1954 – St. Joesph’s Hospital on Flint’s east side.  The doctors and nurses didn’t seem overly concerned – even though I felt like I was going to die.  I can remember having x-rays done and even being hooked up to wires whereas after a little while the shortness of breath started to go away and the heart wasn’t beating as fast.  I even started to joke with my friends that I was becoming Chief Ironside (the TV detective that Raymond Burr played that was pretty popular at the time) as I was being wheeled around in a wheelchair.

After a few hours – the doctors at St. Joseph’s Hospital informed me that I wasn’t dying and what I was experiencing was an anxiety attack.  Well, you could have fooled me – I thought that the grim reaper was at my door and it was only a matter of time.  I have learned since on how to deal with anxiety attacks – but the first one does leave an impression and for years – I place the blame for it directly on the movie “Easy Rider”.  I was watching the movie when it happened and that had to been the trigger for the racing heart, shortness of breath and that feeling like I was going to die – so, I refused to watch the movie whenever it was on television, only because I felt like it might have that reaction on me again. 

After that first anxiety attack – I wouldn’t travel anywhere without having my trusty brown lunch sack near by that I would use to breath in and ease the anxiety symptoms that I use to feel.  (I also had the “Hospital” signs memorized between Flint and Gladwin, Michigan just in case I needed to visit one when I would go up north to visit my parents – but that’s another story). 

And call me superstitious – but I have yet to watch the movie “Easy Rider” since that eventual night of the first anxiety attack and maybe I should watch it to honor the film legacy that Dennis Hopper has left behind.  I mean, if I can get through “Blue Velvet” and not experience anything too creepy…”Easy Rider” should be a breeze, shouldn’t it? 

Rest in peace, Mr. Hopper!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

And That Was....

American Idol 2010

I’ve got to be honest with you – American Idol this season was as disappointing as my first (and only) marriage.  With the exception of Crystal Bowersox – the talent pool for this year’s American Idol was about as deep a Paris Hilton Mensa test and about as satisfying as a frozen waffle; and if it wasn’t for this being Simon Cowell’s last season as a judge – there was really no other compelling reason to watch AI this year. 

Last year, American Idol had some exciting performers such as Adam Lambert and Chris Allen – this year it seemed like everyone who came out on stage to perform had an acoustic guitar – which doesn’t bode well for being really entertaining television.  We were spoiled with Lambert last year who showcased not only his talents as a singer but as a performer – this year we got either a coffee house performance or performances on par of a touring Broadway musical cast. 

It is my feeling that Crystal Bowersox was the only Idol performer who really gave everything that they had into every performance of the competition and it was only in the last couple of weeks that Lee stepped up his game, but he doesn’t come close to Bowersox in pure talent. I was pulling for ‘Big Mike’ to bust out – but he just didn’t have what it takes to cross over into that level of ‘I’m gonna blow you away’ and he was lucky to have lasted as long as he did.

Why did American Idol suck as badly as it did this year?  I’m shocked that I’m even going to admit to this, but I feel it all comes down to Paula Abdul and her appearance on this year’s season’s finale made me realize that even more.  With the producers not having signed Paula Abdul to a new contract before the season began – it resulted in producers devoted a lot of time in getting “guest judges” at all of the auditions that they didn’t have their eyes on the real prize of American Idol – the contestants.  I know that Paula’s comments on the judging panel were pretty laughable – but she did provide some kind of glue to the show that was desperately missing this year.

I would be remised in not mentioning Ellen DeGeneres arrival to the Idol stage as a judge.  I like Ellen.  I find Ellen’s daily talk show to be entertaining and there have been some classic comedy moments on the talk show – which really made me look forward to her arrival on the Idol stage, but even she has been a bit of a disappointment this season.  If you were to compare some of Paula Abdul’s lamest comments as a judge to some that Ellen made – Paula comes out more knowledgeable and credible in her comments than Ellen does. 

I’m Not Gonna Watch It…

I wrote a review of the Jerry Seinfeld produced TV show, “The Marriage Ref” and even though it has been a minor hit for NBC – I still refuse to watch it and I don’t give a damn how many marquee names he gets to come on the show to be a ref.  To me, “The Marriage Ref” sucks and when you allow crap like this to get an audience then don’t be surprised the networks throw more crap like this your way.

I have yet to watch Jay Leno since he returned to “The Tonight Show” and was thrilled to see him bomb at the recent Washington Correspondence Dinner.  I’m still of the opinion that Jay Leno stabbed Conan O’Brien in the back after his prime time show failed by going back to the “Tonight Show”.  Sure, Conan’s “Tonight Show” ratings were low – but so were Jay’s when he first hosted the show.  Jay – you should have manned up and walked after the prime time show tanked and not yank Conan out of his seat on the “Tonight Show” – you could have refused NBC’s offer to go back – but you didn’t.

I am also proud of myself that I didn’t tune in to “Good Morning America” or “Nightline” to see them interview Sandra Bullock’s soon-to-be ex-husband, Jesse James.  I don’t think that he can anything that is going to change my opinion of him being the biggest friggin’ douche bag jerk still sucking oxygen out of the air on this planet.  And if Dr. Drew should decide that he might want to get James to appear on an upcoming season of “Sex Rehab with Dr Drew” on VH-1 – I will boycott that show, too!   

What The…..

What the….!!!!!  It’s the only way I can describe how I felt when I visited my local Burger King restaurant and see the signs all over the place for ribs.  Yup, the King is now selling ribs – pork ribs at that – and they aren’t the pork processed ribs that McDonald’s has used for their McRib sandwiches…these are real bone-in ribs.  I have yet to try them – but they are a little pricey – because they’re a lot smaller than the ribs that you might find at Applebee’s.  But, let’s be honest with each other – who really is going to buy bone-in ribs from a drive-through burger restaurant who wants you to “have it your way”? 

With all of that said – that’s going to do it for now.  Until we meet again via the written word....keep the grin above your chin and good thoughts in your head.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Looking At You Looking At Me

The internet is an interesting beast.  Thanks to the internet anyone can express how they feel about anything and their message isn’t filtered for space or content (yuk, that sounds like something Sarah Palin might say) and the audience for that message can number a few or into the millions. 

Even though I started writing this blog a long time ago, it’s only been the last six months or so that I have tried to disciplined myself to write in it with any kind of regularity.  If you think that it’s easy to write something – the next time you sit down at your computer try and write 800 to 1000 words about something that interest you…it’s not easy.

One of the interesting things that I have discovered since I began writing this blog is that I don’t know a lot of the people that read it.  Thanks to Google – I have been able to track a few things about the people who read this blog and some of the things that I have discovered even has me scratching my head saying, “What????”

Let’s just crunch some numbers.  I will admit that these numbers aren’t huge – but it’s pretty impressive when you consider that there are actually people who are reading what I have written from my home in a small rural town in southeastern Michigan.  Since January 6 – this blog has been host to 425 visitors who have visited some 724 times and have read over 1,223 total pages.  Those figures are minuscule compared to a blog like Flint Expatriates or one of the major newspapers’ blogs – but I think it’s pretty impressive for someone who really just started blogging.

Here’s some other interesting tidbits of information that I have been able to gather about the readership of this blog:  The 425 visitors come from 22 different countries and territories – with the United States leading the pack;  and all but five of the fifty states have visited this blog. 

The Google service that I use to track this blog can also tell me who the internet provider is for the people who click on this blog -- for example – of all of the internet providers the service being used by General Motors Corporation is the sixth most popular internet provider the readers of this blog.  There is someone at General Motors Corporation who reads this blog (and on a regular basis) and he/she must have the blog bookmarked on their computer – because they aren’t clicking on some link to get to this blog.  I have done some research and I have discovered that there is a person by the name of Rich Frost who works for GM and who knows – maybe some people are looking to this blog as something he wrote or whatever, but if it’s you, Rich Frost of GM fame, that is reading this blog – leave a little note and say “hi”.

This Thursday – only two people from Algeria and India clicked on to the blog and read it and you have to wonder why they chose to read what they read.  One of these two  countries read my recent blog about the Twitter page “Shit My dad Says” and the other country read my blog on the Anniversary of New Coke, The Bunless Sandwich at KFC and Kool-aid’s new Fizzies.  Why would be of interest in these two blog posts to the people of India or Algeria?  I dunno!

I only had two visitors to the blog on Friday, too, but it wasn’t what they read as to who they were:  There was a return visit from my friend at General Motors Corporation and (the real head scratcher – and maybe they know what I can do for that) was when someone clicked on my blog from a computer in Georgia at the United States Center For Disease Control.  I don’t know why they would be reading this blog – I haven’t talked about swine flu or an outbreak of cooties in the lower forty-eight states.  Why would they click on this blog?

I’m always amused when some places in Flint click on the blog – such as Hurley Medical Center, the C.S. Mott Foundation and even the Flint Public Library (which I’m assuming is some body using the computers at the library linking up the blog)….but I have had more than one visit from the Flint Chamber of Commerce.  Trust me – there isn’t a lot of “Come to Flint and Vacation” stuff in these pages….so why are they visiting this blog?

I was also surprised to see that the Associated Press actually paid a visit to my blog one day.  I hope they were pleased with what they found and were counting the few photos from them that I may have pilfered. 

I am enjoying writing this blog and I hope that there are one or two people out there who can find something of interest in all of this tossed together word salad of ideas and thoughts.  Hopefully, I can keep the thing a little interesting and you keep on coming back…and don’t be afraid to leave a message or two if you do find something that you like or want to comment on.

As my old friend Dave Barber would say, “I’m gonna count my tips” and get outta here…until we meet again via the written word – keep the grin above your chin and good thoughts in your head.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Fox News And The Politics of Fear and Smear

There are three shows that I record on the DVR each and every week. They aren’t the most popular TV shows on the air today. The combined viewership of all three of these shows is somewhat insignificant when it comes to ratings. The only thing that connects each of these shows is that my watching them confirms the fact that I’m a news junkie and nothing else.

What shows do I record every week? There’s “Fox News Watch” with the ‘fair and balanced’ network taking a look at the news media and how it is covering the news of the past week. I also record the last half-hour of ABC’s “This Week” – only because I’m more concerned with the roundtable discussions and the “In Memoriam” and “Sunday Funnies” features than I am the newsmaker interviews. And, last but not least, I record CNN’s “Reliable Sources” with Howie Kurtz from the Washington Post – which is another journalism review show with the emphasis being on the electronic media. I find all three of these shows to be informative and thought-provoking and, as crazy as this may sound, they all pass as entertainment for me on a Sunday afternoon.

I was grateful that there wasn’t anything heavy near me while I was watching this weekend’s edition of “Fox News Watch”, because I was this close to sending something sailing through the television screen – but why should I destroy a somewhat new television set because of some faux journalist’s little rant.

The top story on this week’s edition of “Fox News Watch” centered on President Obama and how they feel like his administration is micromanaging the news with this week’s announcement of nomination of Elana Kagan to the Supreme Court. The host, Jon Scott, stated that the White House posted a biography and an interview that a White House staffer did with Ms Kagan on the White House web page, but did not make her available to the media nor did the President take any questions about the nomination. The conservative side of the Fox News Watch panel asked where’s the transparency that President Obama promised in his administration and felt like the White House is trying to craft public opinion the way they see it.

If they stayed with the micromanaging the news and opinion angle – I might have agreed these people, but it’s where they took the discussion from there that got my blood boiling. Does the White House micromanage the news? Hell, yes – there isn’t a White House, State House, or Corporation around that doesn’t micromanage their message and try to slant public opinion in their favor, but instead of bitching about it good reporters dig behind the public relations to get the story.

But, Fox News Watch didn’t stop there. From micromanaging the news, Jon Scott, the host of Fox News Watch, went on to compared the White House effort to get their side of the story out on Ms. Kagan to that of Russia’s Pravda Pleeezzeee!

Was I angry when I heard Jon Scott say what he did? Damn straight! As I mentioned – everybody to some extent tries to craft public opinion – it’s just the way things are done – but comparing it to propaganda and Pravda is ridiculous. They can’t just disagree with President Obama – they have to paint him with a brush that makes him out to be some commie pinko socialist etc. It’s enough to watch someone like Hanniety or Glenn Beck call anyone who disagrees with them as fascists – but Fox News Watch is suppose to look at how the media is reporting the news, yet it’s part and parcel of the other shows on the network that yearns for the days of commie witch hunts and blacklists.

Jon Scott has been in the news business long enough to knows that the White House can’t totally isolate a Supreme Court nominee from the media and the media will get a chance to ask questions to and about the nominee. I’m sure that there will be more than enough news outlets to come out against Ms Kagan’s appointment to the bench, but to paint the White House efforts in getting out the story to Pravda is reckless for any news organization that paints itself as being “fair and balanced”.

And, Mr. Scott, why don’t you take a hard look at your network. You complain about the Obama administration micromanaging their public relations image – yet you have Karl Rove, the man responsible for getting out the message during the George W. Bush administration. Where were your comparisons of Karl Rove’s years of government service to that of Pravda? I sure didn’t hear any during the eight years of Bush, but Fox News loves to lob those subtle comparisons to communism and fascism when it comes to the Obama administration. It’s easier to smear and spread fear than it is to do some actual reporting isn’t it, Mr. Scott.

Friday, May 14, 2010

You've Got (Junk) E-mail

I use to think that the post office delivered too much junk mail to my mail box – but I discovered that it’s nothing to the amount of junk mail that’s e-mailed to me each and every day.

I don’t care what kind of filters you have set up for your e-mail account – you can’t avoid the junk mail. I am amused sometimes by the various ways people hide their true identity so that they can pitch discount drugs, penis enlargement devices and creams and pills to keep an erection harder longer (or is that longer harder…I dunno). I don’t know one person who has ever bought any of the products that are part and parcel of the junk mail people receive on the internet, but you know that there is got to be someone out there who has, because these people wouldn’t be trying so hard to get us to buy if someone hadn’t purchased their products.

I think that every e-mail account that has ever been created has had that e-mail delivered to it with the news from South Africa, (or some place like that), informing us that we could be a part of a million dollar settlement from someone with the same last name as ours. All that you have to do to stake your claim was to wire something like ten thousand dollars to this guy to get the ball rolling on the legal paper work. Yeah! I don’t know about your family – but the Frost side of my family is not exactly known for having money…especially money hidden away in some South African country. The person writing this e-mail would more likely find government cheese and peanut butter in a Frost family safety deposit box before they found millions of dollars in cash. So, I instantly hit the delete button any time I see one of those e-mails in my computer’s mailbox.

There’s another type of e-mail that has always amazed me – only because I know the people sending them are intelligent and rational people – yet they fall victim to what is essentially an internet chain letter. I don’t care how many people you can convince to forward your e-mail to other people – a special message is not going to pop up on your computer screen and Bill Gates is not going to send you money; and you won’t be getting a twenty-five dollar gift certificate to the Olive Garden, Chili’s, Red Lobster, Wal-Mart or Target – if ten or a hundred people respond to your e-mail. It just ain’t gonna happen, folks – get real!

Another e-mail that instantly gets deleted from my e-mail are messages from people sending me their testimonies on how they have found God and how much better my life would be if I accept Him into my life. I’m happy that my friends have found God (personally, I never thought he was lost), but I get a little pissed off when they start to force their belief in God on me.

There’s another category of e-mail that I find puzzling and it’s the God chain-letter. What’s puzzling about these e-mails are what they are really saying….such as if I send this e-mail to so many people that God will bless me riches and good health. I don’t know about your God, but my God doesn’t grant people things by how many people I can get to answer a chain letter e-mail…my God blesses those who believes. Which brings up another interesting question – is God a PC or a Mac? And if God owns an I-Pod – wouldn’t you like to know what apps he has downloaded? I’m getting off the subject – I’m sorry.

And how many times have we received that email that contains an article “supposedly” written by comedians Jay Leno or late George Carlin that you know these people have never written or said in their entire life-time. George Carlin wrote the brilliant comedy bit about the “Ten Words You Can’t Say On Television”, I’m sure that he wouldn’t waste his time writing some right-wing rant and rave – he would have left something like that to some no-talent, like Dennis Miller. (Remember when Dennis Miller was actually funny?)

I am guilty of sending political e-mails to my friends – but I have cut back on those only because I know that what ever I send out to people it’s not going to convince them to change their political beliefs. What frustrates me about some of the political e-mails that I receive these days is how hateful the political discourse has gotten in the last couple of years. It’s hard to believe that I know people who still question President Obama’s place of birth, but I do and they’re never going to give up on that belief.

I also get e-mails from people about what’s happening in Arizona with their new immigration law. The e-mails address everything but what the law really does – which makes racial profiling legal and lets law enforcement officials ask anyone for proof of citizenship if you think that you might be an illegal. Will this law save any lives? Probably not. Will it stop illegal aliens from entering our country to find work? Probably not – if you want to do that – force the companies that hire the illegal aliens to quit hiring them and force them to hire legal citizens and pay them a decent wage and benefits – that’s not going to happen either because they need the cheap labor. If you want to discuss the immigration problem with me – don’t send me e-mails full of your rhetoric and vitriol that include racist depictions of what you think Mexican people look like – because I’m going to delete your e-mail quicker than it takes Sarah Palin to say “Gotcha” at some tea party gathering.

Yup…there’s a lot of junk being delivered to e-mail boxes all across the internet and the best thing about receiving them is that you can delete them before they take up too much valuable space in your e-mailbox. I mean, you have got to make sure that you have enough space in your e-mail account for all of the fart jokes – I mean – if there is one thing that we all need it’s that special e-mail that describes all of the various kinds of farts one makes…it’s not only funny to read, but it provides a very valuable service to all of its readers…giving names to our farts…and don’t get me started on the need for more dick jokes.

Well, I’ve got to go and check my e-mail. Ta – Ta!

Saturday, May 08, 2010

We Can Only Wish That Our Dad Was This Funny

I want to thank Justin Halpern’s girlfriend for dumping him.  I don’t know why she dumped him, but I want to thank her anyway.  You see, if the twenty-eight year-old Justin hadn’t been dumped by his girlfriend he would not have had to leave Los Angeles and  move back home with his seventy-three year-old father, Sam in San Diego, who the world is going to soon discover as one of the most colorful characters anywhere. 

To Justin, Sam is “like Socrates, but angrier, and with worse hair” and  he has an opinion on just about everything from Grape Nuts to a fear of waking up one day and only getting the USA Network on his television set.  (Which I would have to agree is a pretty nasty fear to have to live with). 

Justin is very much aware that his Dad is probably one of the funniest men anywhere – which is why after moving back home with his parents last August, Justin decided to set up a Twitter account called “Shit That My Dad Says”.  Working within the Twitter constrictions of 140 characters or lees – Justin began sharing some of his Dad’s hilarious thoughts and observations and within a month his Twitter page was an internet sensation. 

Brace yourself – Justin’s Twitter account has, as of this writing, over 1.3 million followers and it has spawned a book (on sale now at your favorite bookstore) that gives you some of the stories behind the tweets and paints a hilarious portrait of a pretty unique father-son relationship.  But, there’s more to this story – besides the successful Twitter account and the book – CBS is filming a pilot based on the book and the Tweets with William Shatner as his dad.

How funny is Justin Halpern’s dad?  I’ll let you be the judge.

“A parent’s only as good as their dumbest kid.  If one wins a Nobel Prize but the other gets robbed by a hooker, you failed.”

“I don’t get it; I sweat, I smell fine.  You sweat, you smell like mule shit….Relax, she’s on the treadmill next to you, she knows.”

“No, I’m not a pessimist.  At some point the world shits on everybody.  Pretending it ain’t shit makes you an idiot, not an optimist.”

“You can watch the house while I’m gone.  Just don’t call me unless something’s on fire, and don’t screw in my bed.”

“Mom is smarter than you…No?  Well, ask yourself this; has mom ever unknowingly had toilet paper hanging out of her ass?...Mom 1.  You 0.”

“It’s never the right time to have kids, but it’s always the right time for screwing.  God’s not a dumbshit.  He knows how it works.”

“The whole world is fueled by bullshit…What?  The kid asked me for advice on his science fair project so I’m giving it to him.”

“Everybody’s broke, so here’s the rule for Christmas this year; if you still shit your pants, you get a present.  Otherwise tough shit.”

“Nobody is that important.  They eat, shit, and screw, just like you.  Maybe not shit like you, you got those stomach problems.”

“You worry too much.  Eat some bacon…What?  No, I got no idea if it’ll make you feel better, I just made too much bacon. 

“If mom calls, tell her I’m shitting…son, marriage is about not having to lie about taking a shit.”

“That woman was sexy…Out of your league?  Son.  Let women figure out why they won’t screw you, don’t do it for them.”

“I wanted to see Detroit win.  I’ve been there.  It’s like God took a shit on a parking lot.  They deserve some good news.”

“I’m sitting in one of those TGI Friday’s places, and everyone looks like they want to shove a shotgun in their mouth.”

“The worst thing you can be is a liar…Okay fine, yes, the worst thing you can be is a Nazi, but THEN, number two is liar.  Nazi 1, Liar 2.

“You know, sometimes it’s nice having you around.  But now ain’t one of those times.  Now gimmie the remote we’re not watching this bullshit.”

I’ve just given you a taste of some of the tweets that you’ll find at or you can pick up a copy of the book at Barnes and Noble, Borders or   And let’s cross our fingers that the nimrods at CBS buys the pilot so we can watch William Shatner deliver some of the philosophical musings of Sam Halpern every week.  Wouldn't you watch this show to see William Shatner playing a cantankerous but funny old fart?  It would be "must see TV" in my house. 

Update:  Since this post was originally posted -- CBS has announced at its recent upfront meetings with advertisers and the media that they have picked up "Shit My Dad Says" with William Shatner for the fall 2010 season.  The show will be called "#@%& My Dad Says" in all announcements for the show and not the original title of the book and the Twitter page.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Myrtle, With Love -- From Tubby

As many of you know, my Mother died of cancer a little over eight years ago and she’s still in my thoughts in one way or another every single day.  Whether my girlfriend Marty and I are taking a drive in the country and we spot some house with what we call, “A Marion porch”, (which is basically a big front porch that my Mom always wanted, but never got to enjoy one in her life), or laughing at something our grandchildren has done that we wish that my Mom was alive to see it for herself..  One of the hardest things about my Mom not being alive is realizing how much time I wasted when she was here.  I wish I could have just one day back to tell her how much I love her and how much she means to me – but we all know that that is not possible.

I may not be able to tell my Mom how much I love her – but I still have some time to tell another person who has meant a lot to me how I feel and in a roundabout way – you could call this woman my second Mother. 

Her name is Myrtle Graves and if there was ever a woman who should receive an award for being a Mother – it would be Myrtle.  Myrtle, along with her husband Bob, are the proud parents of nine kids – ten, if you want to count me (the chubby little fat kid from across the street who usually found his way into your kitchen at around dinner time). 

Doctors have recently told Myrtle that she a large cancer mass near the lungs and it’s inoperable.  I can’t imagine how I would handle news like that, but Myrtle is handling it pretty well.  As she told me on the phone, “all things come to an end”, and you can’t really argue with that logic, can you? 

It’s only been a few months or so that I finally was able to reconnect with Myrtle and her family after some seven years or so.  Her daughter, Pat, had given me a phone number where I could reach Myrtle, but before I had a chance to do so, I received a phone call from her.  It was a Monday night that Myrtle called and we must have chatted non-stop for a good half-hour or so and there literally was tears in my eyes the moment that I hung up the phone.  Talking with Myrtle brought back all of those good things I remembered growing up on the east side of Flint and hearing Myrtle’s infectious laugh only made me smile even bigger.  It’s easy to make Myrtle laugh – all I had to do is give her an example or two of how stupid my sister is and she was laughing up a storm. 

I can’t tell you the exact time or how I connected with Myrtle and the entire Graves family – it just happened.  I would come home from school and instead of going home to an empty house – I usually ended up across the street at the Graves house.  We’d watch “the soaps” (General Hospital, One Life to Live, and Dark Shadows) and when dinner was ready – I usually grabbed a plate and joined everyone.  (Luckily, my Mom could cook and she’d make up for me eating the Graves out of house and home with an occasional pie, cake or some cookies – especially near the holidays.)

If you were visiting the Graves family – sooner or later you would be talking and laughing up a storm.  Some of those conversations took place at the kitchen table over a game of Crazy Eights or Aggravation – or – it was getting together on a hot summer night on the Graves’ front porch with a cold ice tea or an ice cold bottle of Coke that you bought at Jack’s Trading Post. 

Those were the days, Myrt!  I wouldn't mind being able to go could back in time and enjoy another one of those Saturday night get-togethers at Andy and Millie’s place next door, too.  You, Andy and Millie sitting around the table enjoying a cold beer or two and listening to country music on the radio while we kids drank pop and played pool.  Back then, we would make fun of that “hillbilly music”on the radio – but now that I have gotten older – I now appreciate a lot of that music and we’d probably come to an agreement today that that was the real country music – not this rock n’ roll crap that they’re passing off as country today.

I know that I have been rambling on about things, but there’s one thing that I want you to know Myrt – I want you to know that you did pretty good.  Nobody’s going to give you that special Mother’s award that you justly deserve – but I want you to look around you and know that there’s one thing that you can be proud of and that’s your children.  All in all – you did pretty good with those young ‘uns that you brought into this world.  Oh sure, there was a little bump here and bump there and nights that you wondered how you were going to keep everything going – but you did it!  Your kids know that every decision that you made – even if it made them angry at first – you made because you loved them and wanted only the best for them.  And…just for your information everything doesn’t come to an end – because a little bit of you lives in each one of your children and grand children and all of the people that you have touched.

Your children love you, Myrtle and I love you, too.  May your journey be as peaceful and as beautiful as you have been to all of the lives you have touched. 

Since this blog was originally posted, Myrtle Graves died at her daughter’s home in Texas, on Monday afternoon, May 17, 2010.  In a conversation with one of her sons on Tuesday night – I reminded him that with his Mom’s passing – the family goes on and his Mother was more than just a link to his past, she was the glue that held everyone and everything together.  You keep the memory and the spirit of your Mother alive by keeping the family going.  No one says that it will be easy – but look at it as a beautiful tribute to the great lady that your Mother was.